Last Words

He often wondered what his last words would be. His very last thought. The last idea to emanate from his mind before he died. While he held her wrinkled old hand. And looked into her gray eyes. Perhaps he would’ve simply said goodbye. Perhaps he would’ve said, “I love you.”

It didn’t matter now. She was gone. And he could think of nothing to say. He was empty, and his mind was empty. No words. No thoughts. Only a dark empty cavern in which he cowered, shivering and primitive.

Flower to Form

How can what is
Never not be?

I was born …
I know.
I will die …
I know.

How can something be
What ever always is?

A thousand times
I lived this life.
A thousand times more
It will yet be lived.

Petals whispered from the lips of a flower,
Strewn upon a beaten path,
Gather in this life and the next.

Flower to form,
To form, a flower.

Once Written

Once written,
its meaning is lost.
Once spoken,
the words go unheard.
Once seen,
it may not be seen again.

Therefore, hold fast to Truth.
As one would the hand of a dear friend,
bidding farewell,
called to sea,
to a far shore,
and more temperate climes.

Vanishing Youth

Petrarch is known as the father of Humanism and ushered in the era of the Italian Renaissance. This passage is from Petrarch’s Letter to Posterity. It kinda hit home:

My youth was gone before I realized it; I was carried away by the strength of manhood; but a riper age brought me to my senses and taught me by experience the truth I had long before read in books, that youth and pleasure are vanity-nay, that the Author of all ages and times permits us miserable mortals, puffed up with emptiness, thus to wander about, until finally, coming to a tardy consciousness of our sins, we shall learn to know ourselves.

Personally, I would replace the word sin with ignorance.

The Knight of the Cart

I read my first medieval Arthurian romance. This one is by Chrétien de Troyes called The Knight of the Cart. It’s a poem (although, the translation I read is prose) about Lancelot, and his quest to regain Queen Guenièvre, kidnapped by the despicable Meleagant.

I listened to a lecture series on the High Middle Ages (roughly 1000 AD to 1300 AD). Apparently, the nobles were a mean bunch of amoral ruffians. They fought, quarreled, and treated the peasants badly. The lecturer suggested that the courtly romances of the period were an attempt by the authors to instill some morality and a code of ethics into the nobles.

Thoughts on the Story

I rather enjoyed it. It’s not exactly sophisticated by modern literary standards, but that’s kinda what makes it fun.

Some of the examples of courtly love are a bit ridiculous. The aforementioned lecturer suggested that Chrétien may, in fact, have been writing for satirical effect. As an example, here Lancelot stumbles upon Guenièvre’s comb in the woods. There are some of Guenièvre’s hairs on the comb. Lancelot reacts in this way:

Never will the eye of man see anything receive such honour as when he begins to adore these tresses. A hundred thousand times he raises them to his eyes and mouth, to his forehead and face: he manifests his joy in every way, considering himself rich and happy now. He lays them in his bosom near his heart, between the shirt and the flesh. He would not exchange them for a cartload of emeralds and carbuncles, nor does he think that any sore or illness can afflict him now; he holds in contempt essence of pearl, treacle, and the cure for pleurisy; even for St. Martin and St. James he has no need; for he has such confidence in this hair that he requires no other aid. But what was this hair like? If I tell the truth about it, you will think I am a mad teller of lies. When the mart is full at the yearly fair of St. Denis, and when the goods are most abundantly displayed, even then the knight would not take all this wealth, unless he had found these tresses too. And if you wish to know the truth, gold a hundred thousand times refined, and melted down as many times, would be darker than is night compared with the brightest summer day we have had this year, if one were to see the gold and set it beside this hair.

Another quote from the text near the end I thought was compelling:

The rustic, who seldom errs, pertinently remarks that it is too late to close the stable when the horse is out.

There’s some food for thought in that!

Finally, I wonder if the final battle between Lancelot and Meleagant was the inspiration for the Black Knight bit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the book, Lancelot severs Meleagant’s arm during the battle, and then:

And when he [Meleagant] felt the loss of his right arm, he said that it should be dearly sold. If it is at all possible, he will not fail to exact the price; he is in such pain and wrath and rage that he is well-nigh beside himself, and he has a poor opinion of himself, if he cannot score on his rival now. He rushes at him with the intent to seize him, but Lancelot forestalls his plan, for with his trenchant sword he deals his body such a cut as he will not recover from until April and May be passed.

After which Lancelot cuts off his head.

And Meleagant’s rage is such that he cannot speak or say a word; nor does he deign to cry for mercy, for his foolish heart holds tight in such constraint that even now it deludes him still. Lancelot approaches and, unlacing his helmet, cuts off his head. Never more will this man trouble him; it is all over with him as he falls dead.

The Two Parts of Wisdom

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.
John Calvin
Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559)

I’m reading a book on the Renaissance and Reformation called In Search of God and Self, and this quote is on its first page.

Upon some reflection, I considered that neither precedes from the other. Rather, the search for Truth and self-knowledge are two sides of one coin. Both precede from a single source.

The Three Reichs

All of us know that Hitler’s Nazi Germany was called the Third Reich.
But what were the first two Reichs? I was unclear about this, so I looked it up:

The First Reich
I’m still somewhat unclear about this. Wikipedia has it starting in 962 AD with the coronation of Otto I and the creation of the Holy Roman Empire. However, Encyclopedia Britannica suggests it started earlier with the seemingly impromptu crowning of Charlemagne on Christmas Day in 800 AD. It ends with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 after the Napoleonic Wars.

The Second Reich
The Second Reich begins with Bismarck’s unification of Germany in 1871 under the Kaiser and ends with its defeat in World War I.

The Third Reich
Well, that needs little introduction …